Stuff & Things

There's so much more to it than juniper.

Gin Is the Underrated Spirit You Aren’t Drinking Often Enough

If vodka is your loyal party wingman, tequila is your fun friend who gets you into trouble, and scotch is the comfortable old pal you can spend hours reminiscing with about the old days, what does that make gin? Isn’t he that weird British guy your Nana used to hang out with? The one who smelled like Juniper Berries?

Whoa there, buddy, let’s get one thing straight here: you don’t know jack about gin.

“I think most people have a vision of gin as being juniper-forward, and not a heck of a lot more,” says Peter McAuslan, the grand-pere of the Quebec microbrewers behind St-Ambroise beer and founder of McAuslan Malting and Distilling. “Gin has to have juniper in it, but after that you have pretty much a free rein to create your own palate using all these other botanical ingredients,” he says. “There’s a whole range of possibilities.”

McAuslan’s Holy Smoke, a gin he imbues with lemon, cascade hops and frankincense (hence the name), is one of countless new bottles that have appeared recently thanks to a surge of interest from craft distillers in this much-maligned spirit. In Callander, Scotland, McQueen makes a half-dozen unique varieties, among them Sweet Citrus, Smokey Chili and Spiced Chocolate Orange. Here at home, Dillon’s uses ripe Niagara fruit to flavour its cherry and strawberry gins, which are guaranteed to taste unlike anything else on your bar cart. Victoria Distilleries, meanwhile, infuses its Empress 1908 with butterfly pea blossoms to turn it a vibrant shade of indigo. Add a splash of tonic or citrus, and the colour magically transforms to a soft, soothing pink.

Didn’t know gin could do that, did you? It’s OK, he’s heard it before. You can make it up by buying the next round.